HENRICO COUNTY, Va. - Twenty years ago, nearly half percent of all patients who suffered a brain aneurysm did not survive. Those who did survive were at great risk of living with stroke-like symptoms the rest of their lives.
Today, rapidly improving techniques for treating brain aneurysms are being put into play at Bon Secours’ St. Mary’s Hospital in Henrico, thanks to a collaboration with the University of Virginia Medical Center.
St. Mary’s new technology saved the life of avid runner Sharon Dajon.
Dajon was training for October's Marine Corps Marathon when, after a morning workout, something just did not feel right.
"I had a headache most of the day and didn’t feel very well," Dajon, president and managing director of American Health Consulting, said, "but I just brushed it aside."
She did call in sick to work; a phone call that may have saved her life.
When Dajon called in sick, a co-worker noticed her voice sounded strange.
Dajon was then rushed to the hospital where it was determined she suffered a brain aneurysm - a weakened area of a blood vessel had ballooned over time. When the blood vessel ruptures it causes bleeding in the brain. That can lead to long-term disability or death.
About 20 percent of people who have a brain aneurysm rupture die before they get to the hospital, Dr. John Gaughen, Neuro Interventional Surgeon with UVA Medical Center, said.
Dr. Gaughen is using new technology, that is only out of trials and approved by the FDA since 2011, at Bon Secours St. Mary’s hospital in Richmond. The partnership between the two health care systems had allowed them to share specialists and research in the field of neuroscience.
In Dajon's case, the wall of an artery in her brain had ripped. Dr. Gaughen used a flow-diverter stent to repair Dajon's aneurysm. He went through an artery in her hip, up through her body, and placed the stent in position.
"We’re able to block of or fix problems without having to take off a piece of the skull and go in and do open surgery," Dr. Gaughen said.
Six months later, Dajon's follow-up showed the stent is doing its job.
"We're going to consider her cured," Dr. Gaughen said. "That the stent is going to be open, and for all intents and purposes will be cured of this, and she can go on and live the life she was living before."
Even with this scare, Dajon said she could not wait to get her running shoes back on and hit the road.
"I like that endorphin high," she said. "If you run those distances, you get this high after a race. It's like, unbelievable."
Dajon said she planned to take a short time to recover from her follow-up surgery, and then start training for the Myrtle Beach Marathon on Valentine’s Day.